Franklin Regional boys contending despite peaks and valleys
Big wins can galvanize a team, and tough losses can send a team spiraling.
The Franklin Regional boys basketball team have felt those peaks and valleys this season.
“You always have to learn,” second-year Franklin Regional coach Steve Scorpion said. “You have to learn as a coach. Who does what well and learn what the team makeup is.”
Until a few weeks ago, Franklin Regional (15-6, 10-3 Section 3-5A) had a solid regular-season resume. The Panthers were one of the hottest teams in Class 5A and a contender to get back to the WPIAL championship game for a second-consecutive season.
That might still be the case despite the final 8 minutes against section foe Mars on Jan. 25.
On the road in a packed gym and clutching a 14-point lead, the Panthers watched their lead vanish. Franklin Regional failed to land the knock-out punch it needed to put away the defending WPIAL champs. and lost, 58-53.
“What really the Mars game ended up being for us was a learning experience for everybody,” Franklin Regional senior guard Nick Leopold said. “There was nothing of that magnitude where the crowd was against you. Next time, we know how to handle that situation better.”
Still reeling from the Mars loss, the Panthers returned home against section foe Plum (5-15, 5-8) and fell flat. Franklin Regional lost to a team it beat by 21 points a few weeks prior.
“Honestly, we didn’t respond (to the Mars loss) as we thought or I had hoped,” Scorpion said. “We had two good days of practice, and we came out against Plum and weren’t ready to play. I thought we were ready to go, and obviously, they weren’t. Plum wanted it more than we did, and it showed.”
For a Franklin Regional team used to rebounding quickly, the valley the Panthers were in was deep.
“The Plum game was really more of an eye-opener for us more than anything,” Leopold said. “They put more effort into it. It was a snowball effect, and it just didn’t go right for us that night.”
The Panthers have gone on win streaks of five, three, three and three games during the regular season. The losses to Mars and Plum were the only back-to-back defeats the Panthers suffered this season. Franklin Regional ended the panic and got back into the win column with a convincing 75-27 section win over Indiana.
“We learned that when we play well, we can play with anybody and when we don’t we can lose to anybody,” Scorpion said. “From the Mars game to the end of the Indiana game, we got to see what happens when we’re very good, and we got to see what happens when we don’t play hard.”
Franklin Regional can do no worse than finishing the season in a tie for second place with Shaler (14-6, 9-4) in the section.
“In the playoffs, it’s all about matchups,” Scorpion said. “It’s not always about the best team that season, it’s about the best team that day. If we don’t show up, all of the sudden we’re going to watch the guys play or the girls play.”
William Whalen is a freelance writer.